To everything there is a season. And to every season there is change. Season Three of Stargate Atlantis was no exception. Some changes we enjoyed. Some we didn’t. But all in all, it was to make us believe Atlantis is a living, breathing organism — a creature continuing to grow — while dealing with creative decisions and the unexpected road blocks of life.
In our latest interview with Martin Gero, the writer/producer for the series discusses some of the latest changes, both in cast and crew. He expresses his feelings toward the departure of Brad and Rob from the day-to-day operations of Atlantis, and to the changes in the cast of the series itself. This article includes complete spoilers for Season Four!
GateWorld’s interview with Martin is available in MP3 audio format for easy listening, and runs 38 minutes. It is also transcribed below. You can also download the interview to your MP3 player and take GateWorld with you!
GateWorld: For GateWorld.net, I’m David Read, and I’m once again here with Mr. Martin Gero in his lovely, lovely office. Martin, good to be with you.
Martin Gero: It’s really not that nice, but thank you. Thank you very, very much.
GW: Good to be back with you. You’ve been busy during hiatus.
MG: That’s true, that’s true. I have been pretty busy.
GW: What were you up to?
MG: I had directed a movie in Toronto for a company called ThinkFilm and a company called Christal. So I’m just in the process of finishing that up. I’ve been flying back and forth between Toronto and Vancouver on the weekends. Every weekend except for this weekend. So, yeah. It’s been a little exhausting but it was a lot of fun. It’s nice to be back to work at Stargate.
GW: How’s Season Four shaping up for the show and for you thus far?
MG: I think probably what you’ve heard — I don’t know who else you’ve talked to — it is first and foremost a lot less work, which is great. I’ve been used to writing seven to eight episodes a year, and this year I have to write four. I’m maybe going to do five. So my writing work has been cut in half. With the film and everything it’s the only way that I was able to do that.
It’s strange because we still feel really busy because of those seven or eight scripts you write a year three of those were usually crazy-to-rush jobs. And so it’s nice to be able to have the time to actually … so hopefully the writing is all a lot better this year. We have no excuse this year if any of the scripts are bad, because we’ve had an ample amount of time to write them.
We started shooting episode one with episode ten starting to be written. We’ve never been that far ahead. We’ve had drafts of scripts floating around at the beginning of a season. Last season we had a lot more written than we had for the two previous seasons. But this year we actually have, like, “I’m done with that one. I’m moving on to something else weeks before production starts on something else.”
So that is a real luxury and, so far, has really allowed us to put a lot of work into drafts. It’s unfortunate because it usually means we’re doing a lot more work on the drafts that we have, but I think they’re making better episodes. I think these first ten are all pretty good. There’s no misses in this first ten. Yet. We’ll see. I might screw that up.
GW: Well you’re increasing digest time of the draft and the final script and everything, so there’s really no excuse for it to be …
MG: No! Absolutely. The show should be better this year. There’s really no excuse. [It’s] taking us all nervous in a weird way. When we’re doing forty episodes a year it was easy to be “What do you want?! We do forty episodes a year! It’s a lot of work!” But now we’re doing twenty, so …
GW: What are some of your highlights thus far for shows? Anything you’d like to tease us about?
MG: Well it’s tough because it’s early. Obviously I have a handle on “Adrift.” “Adrift” and “Lifeline” I’m really, really happy with. I think Carl did an amazing job on “Lifeline” and I feel pretty confident behind the work in “Adrift.” We have a little bit more money this year for the show, which was kind of a surprise because there is a great cost-saving from doing two shows at once and we thought we’d probably take a hit this year. But MGM has coughed up some money, and of course we’re running the movies side-by-side.
So I know that there was a concern that the production value of the show would go down. In fact it’s gone up, and we’re able to spend the money we would only be able to spend once or twice a year on episodes fairly consistently. Once every three episodes we have a pretty giant episode. So “Adrift” and “Lifeline” are massive, massive episodes.
The end of Season Three was essentially a soft reset. A little bit. That doesn’t last as long as some of us would have liked it to, for a number of reasons. But it is with Carter and Weir and stuff like that. There’s a lot of changes this year. The introduction of Jewel. So even though Atlantis isn’t going to be stuck in space for the whole season, it is somewhat of a soft reset. So it’s important for us to have gotten those episodes right, and I think we have.
And then let’s see — what else have we got here? “Doppelganger” is just great. It’s a ton of fun. It’s a great Robert Cooper episode. “Travelers” is going to introduce, hopefully, a recurring new guest star. We’re just locking down the casting on that. I’m pretty excited about it. I can’t say anything in case it doesn’t happen.
GW: The star for the new race?
MG: Just a guest star. And “Missing” is maybe one of my favorite episodes I’ve ever read, written by Carl Binder, directed by Andy Mikita. Andy is so perfect for it. It’s going to be a really great episode for Jewel and Rachel. When we sat down at the end of Season Three, one of the big things that Paul, especially, wanted to take point on when he came on as show-runner with Joe, is to bring Teyla to the forefront a little bit more. She has oft been the forgotten character in Atlantis. Not anybody’s fault.
I wrote a scene in “First Strike.” [It does] show things that are going around on the base. There’s not much for Ronon and Teyla to do. I’m just writing another scene right now for my untitled episode which takes place on Earth. They’re figuring out corporate structures and Ronon’s just surfing the Net. They’re like, “What are you doing?” He’s like, “You want my help researching corporate structures? Tell me when you have someone to point a gun at, and then I’m useful.” That’s Ronon.
But Teyla is more of a dignitary and leader. It was really important to for us — for whatever reason — those stories weren’t getting told. This year it was a priority and we have a really exciting arc for her this year that hopefully no one will see coming. Some really nice twists throughout the entire season over the course of three or four episodes. Yeah, it’ll be nice. It’s a different type of arc for us because it doesn’t happen over the course of four episodes. It’ll happen throughout the entire season an episode here, an episode there. It’ll be mentioned an episode here, an episode there. It’s good.
“Reunion” — great. It’s a Joe Mallozzi special. A great Ronon episode. Even more back-story on Ronon. And “Tabula Rasa” should be a fun one. “[The] Seer” should be a fun one. The untitled episode I’m writing right now, I guess we can probably say it, is a sequel to “McKay and Mrs. Miller.”
GW: Ah, so you’re doing a McKay episode this year. And Jeannie’s back!
MG: Yes. And Jeannie’s back. I’m writing that right now. It’s less that Jeannie’s back and more that we go to Jeannie. It’s almost exclusively an Earth-based episode. I think there’s one scene that takes place, or a couple of scenes that takes place in Atlantis.
We rarely use that galactic bridge. With the galactic bridge in place it’s pretty easy to get back and forth between Earth. So one of the things we did want to do this year is have an Earth story or two. We’d always avoided it because of [SG-1]. That was kind of [SG-1] territory. Now that they’re not around anymore we feel like we can tell an Earth story every now and again.
That’s always my favorite part about the Stargate franchise, is that it takes place today, now, in the real world. It’s harder to keep that in mind when you’re watching Atlantis when we’re in another galaxy and stuff like that. So it’s a cool story. It’s a lot of fun to write. That draft is going to come in long, probably having a little too much fun writing for Kate and David again. And we’re bringing everyone back. Brendan, her husband’s going to be back. The kid’s going to be back. I hope it’s a good episode.
GW: Will this episode allow us a brief glimpse of the completed Midway Space Station?
MG: Uh, no. But you’ll get that in “Adrift.” And we’re working on another story later in the year where that will play very largely into one of the episodes.
GW: Yeah, it’s a pretty big deal for us to have that conduit. If it gets threatened a little bit …
MG: It’s a huge deal. We’ve kind of said that it’s coming online. It’s not fully completed yet. In “Adrift” we kind of get a glimpse of it. It just starts to come on line, and then is used in a couple of other stories. Then we’ll do a big “Gate Bridge” episode.
GW: Fantastic. Alright. How do you feel “Sunday” has been received so far? Everyone has seen it minus the United States.
MG: That we’re fixing, by the way. I know people are kind of upset that we’re being pushed to October or potentially November. But the one good thing about it is that they’re going to air it, from what I understand, continuously. So you’re going to get the full twenty episodes with a break in there for Christmas. So that’ll be good.
I think, weirdly, I’m obviously nervous. I enjoy our summer-winter cycle. There’s not a ton of competition for the show in that cycle, but starting in November makes me a little weary. Or October. Especially considering Battlestar’s ratings this year.
But I mean, SCI FI, they’re really making a play to have year-round programming and they didn’t want to have all of their shows on one night anymore. I certainly can understand that, and hope it works out for us. But I dodged your question there. What were we talking about?
“Sunday,” which hasn’t aired.
Look. I’m incredibly proud of that episode. I really think it’s, maybe, my best episode. There are people here that think it’s one of the best episodes we’ve ever done. I surely can understand and empathize with Carson fans. I’m one of them. Look, the politics of why it had to happen and stuff like that are phenomenally complex. All I can say is I still feel like it was the right thing to do at the time. It’s science fiction. So who knows.